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You may have noticed that we don’t have any nail polish on our shelves right now. It’s not that we’re against it; color is fun, and there’s plenty of good, healthy nail polish out there to choose from. But as a general rule, our team tends to favor natural nails — and it seems the tide is turning to join us: a headline in Vogue recently deemed the buffed nail to be the “manicure of the moment.”
Serendipitously, we had the pleasure to meet fellow San Franciscan Suzanne Shade not long ago, and what she has created is so exciting that we can barely stand it. (We’re not alone: Bare Hands has already been featured in a separate article in Vogue as well as IntoTheGloss and Forbes, among others.) Read on to learn about the story behind the Bare Hands Dry Gloss Manicure and Suzanne’s top tips for using the kit. Which, truly, you have to get.
Ayla: You’ve mentioned that one of the inspirations for Bare Hands was your time in art school, when you learned that many solvents for oil-based paint weren’t healthy. You started developing the Dry Gloss Manicure Kit two years ago; what prompted you to create it at that time?
Suzanne: I had actually started thinking about it much earlier — this goes way back to art school, when I learned that many solvents for oil-based paint weren’t healthy.
It was around 5 years ago that I began looking into acetone safety studies: I felt that if those solvents weren’t good for fine art use, then surely similar products couldn’t be good for my nails. And I thought that with all of the awareness around ingredients in cosmetics and food safety, nail care was soon to be a bigger part of the conversation.
I began talking to people about their habits and researching new methods to solve this problem. Soon it became clear that a lot of women didn’t like the way their nails looked most of the time, and none of them had methods to care for them in a truly natural way. For the many of us that spend time working with our hands in studios, kitchens and offices, I wanted an alternative to salon manicures that just weren't a sustainable solution.
It wasn’t until I began researching buffing methods that I knew that I had found the basis of an alternative. I’ve always loved the look of natural nails and found that caring for them in an intentional way really changed how I saw myself.
Ayla: Tell us about the glass-and-mineral buffer. We’re used to the standard issue buffers we see at nail salons, which are definitely not made of glass and minerals. How did you come across the idea for this one, and how is it better?
Suzanne: The Polisher is made of glass, which allows for a harder, more precise material abrasion than the silica-based grit that traditional buffers use. I developed it after seeing something similar to what I wanted in Japan. It gives a better result in a much more environmentally friendly way.
Ayla: How frequently do you suggest using the kit?
Suzanne: It’s really based on how fast your nails are growing at the time. They actually grow at different rates depending on season, hormonal cycle, and age. The normal span of time is a week for fingernails and up to a month or more for toenails. So the Polisher can be used weekly and the cuticle oil can be applied as needed. Most folks need daily application of cuticle oil because of the amount of soap we use on our hands.
Ayla: Is it possible to use it too frequently? (We can imagine that fresh glossy look being very addictive.) What should we look out for to tell us that we should cut back on polishing sessions?
Suzanne: This is unique for everyone, so it’s good to be mindful of your growth cycle and your natural nail thickness. But just like hair, they will grow back if you go a little too far. Some folks that have vertical ridging can begin to shape them smooth, but it needs to be done gently over many sessions.
Ayla: How long does the buffer last?
Suzanne: With regular use, it should last from 6 to 9 months. Just clean it with warm water and a soft cloth after every use.
Ayla: Tell us about the beautiful oil you’ve created for this kit. What’s the difference between Citrine and Unscented? And how did you think about the specific oils to include in the blend?
Suzanne: My formulation philosophy was basically this: to create nourishment of the skin and nail through only botanical sources. And to give people an aromatic experience that they would look forward to doing again and again.
The repeated application is a really integral part of the method because it doesn’t rely on synthetic ingredients that claim to produce instant results. The most nutritive oils in both blends are castor oil, jojoba, sea buckthorn and vitamin E. Castor oil, specifically, has an 18-carbon fatty acid that is much more polar than most other fats. Fat plays a large role in the keratin structure of the nail, so continuously supporting those natural fats is essential.
Ayla: We imagine that bare nails (like bare skin) may prompt more questions about nail health. What are some frequently asked questions you’ve received from your early adopters with nail health concerns — e.g., thin or brittle nails — who may wonder whether or not they can use this kit?
Suzanne: Most of my customers who have thin nails or ridging are the ones I have the most dialog with. Many times, these conditions are indicators of overall health and how your body absorbs nutrition. So the questions are mostly around how carefully should they proceed, and whether or not The Polisher be able to remove the ridges.
Ayla: Since we should use this kit on bare nails…what do you suggest to remove that leftover polish, just that one time before we all become Dry Gloss Manicure devotees?
Suzanne: I think it’s more about using paint sparingly, not necessarily getting rid of it completely. Of course, the formulas without phthalates or acetone top the list. There are a number of soy-based formulas out there: they require a bit more effort than a solvent, but you can feel better about using them more frequently.
Ayla: How many people have told you that they have given up painting their nails completely?
Suzanne: A lot, actually! Much more than I had expected. Before the pandemic, I was hoping that people would use this in between salon visits, but as the landscape has shifted, so many of us are changing long-time habits.
Are you as excited about this kit as we are? It prompted us to dig deeper into nail health, too. Check out our interview with the brilliant Dr. Anna Gold on specific nail conditions and what they might mean from both Western and Eastern perspectives — it's fascinating — and the notes from our team member, Elena, on how to address nail health from an Ayurvedic perspective.
And we're lucky that Suzanne is local, because she popped in to show us how to use the kit in person — and we filmed it! Check out our tutorials here.